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2016 Kentucky Football: The Show Me Season

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There’s a reason why people joke there’s an ancient Indian burial ground underneath Commonwealth Stadium. Kentucky football and its fans have been trapped in a cruel cycle of inflated hopes and dashed dreams ever since Bear Bryant took off for greener pastures in 1954. In the 62 years since Bear left, the program has had only three seasons in which it won nine or more games. In the past 30 years, UK has only been to eight bowl games, the second worst mark in the SEC behind Vanderbilt. It’s a tale as old as time: just when you think the Cats are ready to pull themselves out of the SEC cellar, some cruel twist of fate comes along to stomp on their fingers.

The past two seasons have been the perfect case study. Not only did Kentucky come up just short of bowl eligibility with losses to arch rival Louisville each go around, there have been just enough moments of ecstasy to make the impending moments of agony that much more painful. Be honest: when Mark Stoops said, “We’re just getting started, bro,” after upsetting Steve Spurrier and South Carolina in 2014, you believed him…only to have your hopes crushed when Kentucky went 1-6 the rest of the season. But hey, these are the pains of rebuilding in the SEC, right? After another win over South Carolina in 2015 – on the road, to boot! – it seemed like the Cats were on the right path once again, only to be derailed by perennial soul-crusher Florida. Two wins later, things were looking up as Stoops and company had every opportunity to beat Auburn on a primetime Thursday night stage, but choked. From there, a series of befuddling errors marred the season, most notably four squandered goal-line opportunities vs. Vanderbilt and a 21-point lead over Louisville blown to pieces by poor execution. After watching the Cards score 31 unanswered points in Commonwealth Stadium to end UK’s season for the second year in a row, it’s been pretty hard to get up off the mat, even for a fanbase as weathered as ours.

That’s why I’m declaring this the “Show Me” season for Kentucky football, and not just because they likely have to beat Missouri to make a bowl. Outside of the perpetually positive hardcore UK Football fans, the rest of fanbase seems to be firmly in “wait and see” mode. Season ticket sales are way down from previous years, and, if you judge by the hits on football articles on KSR, the only thing worse than negativity may be indifference. Critics like to accuse KSR of “sunshine-pumping” the program, but we’re coming upon the time of year in which I inevitably follow heart over head due to excitement and I’m going into Saturday’s Women’s Clinic guarded. Don’t get me wrong, I want nothing more than for Mark Stoops to succeed at Kentucky, and he finally has all of the building blocks in place: renovated stadium, state-of-the-art practice facility, etc. But, without wins, it’s all for naught, and I’ve read the “we’ve turned the corner” script too many times before.

With that being said, here’s what I’ll be looking for on Saturday at the Women’s Clinic:

Barker-MediaDay

Does Drew Barker resemble a leader?

I’ll admit it: I bought in to the Drew Barker hype, hook, line, and sinker. After months of talking to Drew over the phone for his diary on the site, I was blown away by his maturity, focus, and vision for the UK Football program. Well, after a tumultuous freshman year, it looked like we were all wrong about the kid who was heralded to be the future of the program, but hey, kids make mistakes, and Drew spent plenty of time in Stoops’ doghouse. Last year, Drew appeared ready to put the past behind him and won the starting job from Patrick Towles the final two games of the season; however, he never really resembled a leader. Even with the reins of the offense in hand, Drew didn’t seem sure of himself, and was actually benched for Towles towards the end of the Louisville game.

With Towles now out of the picture, it will be interesting to see whether Barker fully embraces the role of leader, and, more importantly, if his teammates respond to him. Kentucky cannot afford another locker room divide, so, if Barker is there, I’ll be watching his interactions with fans and teammates, and if he’s not, I’ll be listening to hear what the coaches say about him. It’s a far cry from seeing him lead the team on the field, but I think you can tell a lot about a person’s character by their demeanor in these settings.


Does the Training Facility really have that “WOW” factor?

As in, ‘I’m an 18-year-old five-star recruit with offers from schools way more prestigious than Kentucky, but “WOW,” that training facility will cause me to give this place a second look.’

Kentucky doesn’t have the tradition or record of other programs, so to snare some big-time stars, things like a renovated stadium, a state-of-the-art practice facility, and, yes, uniforms matter. Those who attend the women’s clinic will get the chance to tour the facility and see the new uniforms, so I’m hoping to be wowed.


(Anna Negron, U.S. Army All-American Bowl)

(Anna Negron, U.S. Army All-American Bowl)

The in-state trio (Landon Young, Kash Daniel, Drake Jackson)

We’ve gotten our hopes up for home state heroes before, and at the risk of doing it again, it seems like the trio of Landon Young, Kash Daniel, and Drake Jackson is just…different. The three spearheaded the 2016 recruiting class, and both Kash and Drake enrolled early to get a leg up on preparing for their freshman seasons. While Drake is likely to redshirt and we’ve heard it’s taken Kash some time to adjust to the college game, Landon might start immediately. As with Drew, I’ll be watching to see how they interact with others. Judging by Twitter, we know they’re not shrinking violets. (I just hope Landon doesn’t feel the need to teach us about frog gigging ðŸ˜)


Courtesy: 24-7 Sports

Courtesy: 247 Sports

Who’s the leader on Defense?

Judging by SEC Media Days, it’s Courtney Love, one of the three players Stoops chose to represent the program. Since the days of Bud Dupree and Za’Darius Smith, I think you can argue there’s been a lack of leadership on defense, and everyone seems to be pointing at Love, a transfer, to fill the void. I haven’t had the pleasure of meeting Love yet, so I hope to hear from him at the clinic.


Any focus on or mention of Special Teams

It’s no secret that UK’s special teams have been a bit of a mess the past few years. In fact, you could argue they were the most frustrating unit on the field last season, which is saying something considering the others. After a million fans lobbied for the job on Twitter, Stoops finally caved in and hired a special teams coordinator over the offseason, former Pitt defensive coordinator Matt House, who will also oversee inside linebackers. Can House restore some order to a troubled unit? I’ll be listening.


What will JoJo Kemp do this year?

Heading in to his freshman year, JoJo Kemp proved to the ladies at the 2013 Women’s Clinic that he’s game for anything, pulling up his shirt during a uniform presentation to show off his abs. Now a senior, JoJo has matured, but he’s still a wildcard. Clearly the vocal leader of the team, JoJo charmed reporters at SEC Media Days and, if he’s there, I’m sure he’ll do the same on Saturday.

Want to join me at the Clinic? There are still spots available.

Article written by Mrs. Tyler Thompson

No, I will not make you a sandwich, but you can follow me on Twitter @MrsTylerKSR or email me.

12 Comments for 2016 Kentucky Football: The Show Me Season



  1. Angelo
    1:17 am July 21, 2016 Permalink

    Winning requires the best quarterback and receivers. Under Stoops that has been our weakest link. He is a defensive guy—with three different offensive coordinators over three years. I feel sorry for the guy.



    • msnthrop
      6:56 am July 21, 2016 Permalink

      You feel sorry for a guy scheduled to make this salary for the next four years, 2016 — $3.5 million, 2017 — $3.75 million, 2018 — $4.0 million, 2019 — $4.25 million, regardless if his team makes a bowl this year or not? There is no way this is a “show me” season when your coach is already owed this much money.



    • ClutchCargo
      8:51 am July 21, 2016 Permalink

      Winning requires controlling the line of scrimmage, which in turn makes it easier for all the skill positions to do their thing. We are headed in the right direction, but we’ll see.



  2. Sentient Third Eye
    8:21 am July 21, 2016 Permalink

    Maybe someone will invent a Big Blue Time Machine so we can go back in time to tell UK to GIVE THE BEAR A DAMN CAR TOO!



    • dshwildcats
      8:55 am July 21, 2016 Permalink

      Sentient Third Eye,

      That was hilarious, brother!! I just watched the “Junction Boys” again the other night, and every time I watch that movie, I can’t help but think how differently things may have been for Kentucky Football over the past six decades if the Bear had stayed in Lexington!



  3. dshwildcats
    8:52 am July 21, 2016 Permalink

    msnthrop,

    I think Tyler’s claim that this is a “show me” season has nothing to do with the amount of money Stoops is making. A lot of long-suffering Kentucky Football fans (45 years for me) have heard the talk and hype for years and years. A segment of the fan base threw in the towel at the end of the “Joker experiment”. After years of frustration, many of them had had enough. You have large segment that were reinvigorated when Stoops was hired, and recruiting went to a new level. But after a two straight years of total collapses after great starts, many fans are in that “wait and see” mode that Tyler talked about.

    I’ll be at Commonwealth every Saturday, win or lose, until I’m no longer able to make it up the flight of stairs to my seats. Lol!! Kentucky Football is what I’ve done every Saturday in the fall since 1971, so I don’t really know anything else. But, I definitely understand the frustration and disappointment of many in our fan base; and, I can’t fault them if they given up on this program ever turning the corner.



    • kycats13
      12:36 pm July 21, 2016 Permalink

      We had great starts to the season because we weren’t playing anyone.



  4. fairplay
    8:52 am July 21, 2016 Permalink

    Very good article Tyler. It’s up to you and Freddie to exercise some adult influence on the KSR children.



  5. dshwildcats
    9:04 am July 21, 2016 Permalink

    ClutchCargo,

    You make a very good point about controlling the line of scrimmage! Yes, a program like Alabama has very talented skilled position players. But, the thing that sets them apart from the Kentucky’s of the world is their players in the trenches. The “big hog mollies” as Keith Jackson used to call them! Bringing in kids like Landon Young and Drake Jackson should definitely help us over the long haul; but we still have a ways to go when it comes to matching the ‘Bama’s, LSU’s, UGA’s, etc., of this league.



  6. BluKudzu
    10:21 am July 21, 2016 Permalink

    I don’t wish to address the salary issue until after this season. He wins big, he desrves every dime he gets. If not, another bad move by th athletic department in football.
    My issue with this coaching staff, from day one, is lack of experience. For a defensively minded coach, it is absolutely inexcusable to give up 31 straight points, in a half, and lose.
    This defense we have been using is inept, at best. Staying with it an the same DC, who, for whatever reason, just don’t think it necessary to gameplan for a mobile QB, is crazy.
    Defense wins games. If they can’t score, they can’t win. It is that simple. If you can’t stop the run, you can’t win.



    • jdarren1963
      11:29 am July 21, 2016 Permalink

      I’ll tell you the one thing that helps the defense out the most…the offense. If the offense can’t stay on the field, the defense doesn’t have a shot. Hopefully with the new OC, this will happen soon. We will see, I guess.



  7. Howdy Doody
    10:57 am July 22, 2016 Permalink

    Me and mine won’t be renewing our 10 season seats this year. Until I see SOMETHING resembling an SEC Football Team on the field I remain apathetic. It simply costs too much money for nothing in return but frustration and the continuing promises of “just have faith” does nothing but anger the fans.
    KSR has done a LOT of chest pounding about this Coach and his abilities to pull us all from the abyss of bad football. So far ZIPPO has been accomplished.
    So , NO Matt Jones….THIS is not the year to purchase tickets and add to Stoops bottom line.
    And should I be wrong I will gladly stop by to lick the spoon that I have stirred the pot with.
    But at 63 years of age I have seen and heard Wuda, Cuda, Shuda until I am ready to puke.